TALLADEGA, Ala. — Through the escape hatch with steering wheel in hand, Joey Logano hi-fived his crew, then turned around let out a roar of victory.
“Ford teamwork did it today, not only with the Team Penske Fords, but all of the Fords out there,” Logano said. “We worked really well together and we got a blue oval in victory lane, so so proud of that. So proud to get this Shell Pennzoil team back in victory lane.
“It feels so good to be back in victory lane. There’s no feeling like this. Whoah, it feels so good.
“It’s been quite the weekend. It was a long time coming. We’ve been getting consistent and scoring points, but the win was just around the corner.
“Man, it feels so good. Gosh, I don’t have to worry about the whole Playoffs thing anymore. We’re in! God, it just feels really good.”
With no serious threat from the outside line to contend with in the closing laps, Logano held off Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch during the 18-lap run to the finish to score his 19th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in 337 starts.
Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the Top-five.
“We just needed the assistance from behind,” Busch said. “The 17 car was strong. All the Fords were great today. I was hoping he would get to us on the back straightaway so we could go on offense on the front to go win it but it just didn’t materialize. I wanted to stay with Harvick, my teammate, and navigate around the 22 but everyone behind kind of broke off and was racing too hard and nobody got that big head of steam to try to push through and break apart the 22’s lead.”
“I thought our NAPA Chevy was good,” Elliott said. “It wasn’t, I don’t think, as fast as we’ve been previously at the restrictor plate tracks, but I feel like it was a solid car. I got to the end and those guys around me were working together so much. I thought for sure one of them wanted to win a little worse than what they did. They were being very patient with one another and I was surprised by that. If it was me, I feel like I would have wanted to try or do something. Those guys weren’t having it. I was trying to move forward and make a lane and push and they were not interested in advancing. So, it could have been a lot worse, so we’ll move on to Dover.”
“We had a really good Bush Ford,” Harvick said. “We got the handling a lot better there after the first run of the race when it was pushing really bad and loose in the corners and through the tri-oval. They did a good job adjusting the car. The 41 pulled out sooner than I thought he would there and we wound up getting hung out. All in all it was a really good day. I am happy to finish the race. It is a good day for the guys. We can tweak on one finally rather than having to rebuild one.”
“I just wasn’t sure what to do there,” Stenhouse said. “I knew the 9 was going to try to get by us and we are all trying to get a win there. The 22 was in a great position. When we got two-wide behind him it didn’t slow him down much. We weren’t ever really gaining on him. It was a lot of fun out there today. I made a few mistakes on pit road and we caught some good cautions to keep us on the lead lap. I thought the racing was good. The cars were super tough to drive. They were sliding around everywhere which was fun. I think that made for a good race throughout the runs and the stages and the different strategies that we had. All in all it was a fun weekend and I had fun on the boulevard with all the fans. I appreciate all of them coming out. I really wanted to win on Dale Sr.’s birthday. That would have been really cool.”
David Ragan, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez rounded out the Top-10.
Kevin Harvick led the field to the green flag at 2:26 p.m. As was the case in the previous day’s XFINITY Grand National Series race, the lead cars merged into a single-file line (but on the bottom in today’s race). Harvick and the Fords (and Martin Truex Jr.) broke up the single-file train when they pitted on Lap 13, and handed the lead to Alex Bowman. He and the four-car, eventually 14-car, lead pack held a lead of over 30 seconds, over the, at one point, 15-car peloton (main group). Darrell Wallace Jr. acquired the lead from him on Lap 39. He and the Chevrolets pitted on Lap 43, and the lead cycled to Brad Keselowski, who drove on to win the first stage.
Back to green on Lap 61, Brad Keselowski fell to the bottom line to be in front of teammate Joey Logano, which allowed William Byron and the outside line to advance past him to take the lead on Lap 62. Keselowski got pushed past Byron and back to the lead the following lap. He and the Fords, along with Daniel Suarez, pitted on Lap 67, followed by the Toyotas and most of the Chevrolets the next lap. The lead cycled to Matt DiBenedetto.
A multi-car wreck on the backstretch brought out the caution on Lap 71. DiBenedetto pitted under the caution, handing the lead to Joey Logano.
The race restarted on Lap 78. As Jimmie Johnson pulled the outside line up to the front, Denny Hamlin jumped in front. Then on the 97, he went to pass Logano on the outside going into Turn 1. Logano threw the block, but Hamlin dove to the open space on the bottom, and took the lead. Hamlin held court on the high side for five laps, but jumped to the bottom when Kurt Busch pulled the inside line back up. Paul Menard took up the reigns of the top line and ran side-by-side with Hamlin for the lead for three laps (starting on Lap 104), before pulling ahead, with the Penske Fords in tow, and winning the second stage.
Byron exited pit road with the race lead and led the field back to green with 72 laps to go. Harvick didn’t get going on the restart and the outside lane fell back to fifth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. jumped to the outside to takeover the top line, but kicked Harvick out of line in the process. With 65 to go, Kurt Busch jumped to the high side and powered by Byron exiting Turn 2 to take the lead, just edging out Byron at the line, with 63 to go. Ryan Blaney made contact with Byron going into Turn 1, killing the momentum of the bottom line. With 60 to go, the entire field was in a single-file line against the wall.
Debris on the frontstretch brought out the caution with 60 to go. Stenhouse took fuel only and exited the pits with the lead.
Back to green with 55 to go, Stenhouse powered ahead of Hamlin exiting Turn 2. He tried to throw the block on Suarez, but got himself kicked out of line, handing the lead back to Hamlin. Logano jumped to the high-side to try and pass Hamlin with 51 to go. When Keselowski jumped up to join him up high, they powered by Hamlin exiting Turn 4 and Logano took the lead with 49 to go. Keselowski got under his teammate to fight for the lead, but it ended with 43 to go when the Fords and Hamlin pitted. The rest pitted the following lap, and the lead cycled back to Logano.
During that cycle, Hamlin served a pass through for speeding, and a stop and go penalty for speeding during his pass through.
Caution flew with 32 to go for Timmy Hill blowing his engine in Turn 4.
The race restarted with 29 to go.
A 14-car wreck in Turn 4 brought out the caution with 23 to go, setting up the run to the finish.
Back to green with 18 to go, the outside line faded quickly. With 12 to go, it regained momentum enough that Chase Elliott jumped to the high side and pulled the line up to fifth. With 10 to go, Stenhouse jumped to the high line, but Elliott juked to the bottom, and Stenhouse followed suit. Two laps later, the leaders merged into the bottom lane. Aric Almirola tried frantically to reform the outside line, but he couldn’t pull the field up to Logano, who held off Harvick and Kurt Busch’s attempt to break out of line to pass him and score the victory.
NUTS & BOLTS
The race lasted three hours, 16minutes and 47 seconds, at an average speed of 152.489 mph. There were 25 lead changes among 16 different drivers, and six cautions for 29 laps.
Kyle Busch leaves Talladega with a 30-point lead over Logano.C1810_UNOFFRES